Spot-checks will be carried out within Premier League dressing rooms as part of improved coronavirus protocols, the PA news agency understands.
The top flight is determined to do all it can to protect players and staff and keep the show on the road as coronavirus infections continue to be reported at very high levels across the country, and with four Premier League games having already been called off due to Covid.
It is understood clubs were sent an email on Thursday doubling down on existing protocols but also setting out some key changes, including giving more robust powers to the Covid-19 compliance officers, who each work with two clubs.
This will include allowing them to request access to dressing rooms to check on things such as layout, and to go in while the dressing room is occupied to ensure correct social distancing is being observed.
The dressing room is considered the most sacrosanct, private of places within a club, and officers will be instructed to be mindful of the sensitivity around certain times – such as when a manager is trying to give a team talk.
They will also inspect coaches being used for travel to matches, with clubs recommended to use three to ensure personnel can be adequately spaced out.
On matchdays, all personnel should wear face coverings at all times, with the only exceptions being when players and coaches are on or around the pitch during warm-ups and the matches themselves.
One key change is that substitutes must wear face coverings while seated, but can remove them when they warm up. Players and managers should also wear them while waiting to conduct media interviews.
The protocols call for a reduction in the use of training ground canteens. Apart from matchdays and the day before a match, players should only collect food on arrival or departure rather than remaining in the canteen to eat.
Protocols on the use and cleaning of gym equipment have been reiterated – including the need to clean equipment after each use. The 15-minute limit on massages and physiotherapy sessions remains in place.
Indoor pitches and domes can be used, but must be well ventilated, while staff are encouraged to keep indoor meetings to a bare minimum.
External visitors to training grounds – such as contractors or camera crews from broadcast partners – must have returned a recent negative Covid test to access the site.
The Premier League can ill afford for the season to be disrupted, and risk facing further rebates to broadcast partners.
A senior figure working for one of the league’s major rights holders told PA earlier this week that players who breached coronavirus rules by attending and hosting parties over Christmas and New Year should be sacked.
He said: “If any of your colleagues broke the rules and endangered lives – forget the commercial damage – they would be fired.
“All this disruption is caused by people who ultimately we as broadcasters are paying a huge amount of money to. I have never understood why some players think they’re immune from the rules the rest of society is expected to follow.”
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